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Five Asian writers to watch

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Last week the short list was announced for the 2008 Man Asian Literary Prize. This is an award easy to overlook in English-language reading countries, as the qualification for nomination is that the work must be a novel "unpublished in English."

That doesn't mean, however, that the books will be forever unavailable in English translation. Last year's winner, "Wolf Totem," by Chinese author Jiang Rong (the story of a Chinese student sent to live in Inner Mongolia during the Cultural Revolution), is now readily available on Amazon.com in English translation. The 2008 winner (to be announced in Hong Kong in 2008) will  surely follow suit.

The five works nominated for the 2008 award represent an eclectic mix, as do their authors. If you are a reader whose tastes are both global and literary, this is a group to watch.

There are two Indian writers on this year's list. Kavery Nambisan is a surgeon who practices in rural India and who originally wrote stories for children. Her novel, "The Story that Must Not Be Told," is about a widower in a Madras housing complex who tangles with urban terrorists.

Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi grew up in Bombay, the grandson of a Jungian scholar. He has said that he was a lonely child who often hid in a tree house reading novels.

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